Report confirms rip-off
ACCC report exposes city-country divide
REGIONAL motorists are being ripped off at the bowser with Small Business Minister Bruce Billson saying questions about regional prices were still unanswered.
An Australian Consumer and Competition Commission report released last week showed regional drivers were paying considerably more for their fuel than city counterparts.
It is for that reason Mr Billson has asked the ACCC to scrutinise “price anomalies, price gouging and other irregularities” at regional petrol retailers.
“Separate to this quarterly report, I have also asked the ACCC to conduct specific regional market studies to seek to explain both the size of the unusual price differentials, as well as the slowness in reducing regional fuel prices as the international price falls,” he said.
“We have done this because we share the concerns of consumers and business regarding the mysteries of fuel pricing.
“The first regional location which will look at possible price anomalies, price gouging, and other market irregularities, will be announced soon.”
It is understood three unnamed regional locations will be investigated per year, while a separate study on different types of fuel will be commissioned.
The Quarterly Report on the Australian Petroleum Industry showed an almost 10c/L difference in the price of unleaded fuel between Brisbane and Bundaberg.
Brent crude oil prices dropped 50% in the six months from July to December 2014, falling to their lowest levels since December 2008.
The report said the price could have fallen further if the Australian dollar had not decreased.
But it still does not explain the difference between metropolitan and regional prices, a topic of which Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt has previously expressed disbelief.
In December Mr Pitt referred to the difference as “highway robbery”, adding last week it was clear regional motorists were being ripped off, and confirmed he had asked Hinkler be one of the regions investigated.
“I think (the report) clearly demonstrates how they are being ripped off,” he said.
“I requested (Mr Billson) consider Hinkler as one of those locations. As a Nationals member regional areas are our concern.”
Mr Pitt said the ACCC had a range of powers if retailers were guilty of artificially adjusting prices, and pointed to Coles’ $10 million fine for “supplier mistreatment” late last year as an example.
Mr Pitt said the “duopoly” of Coles and Woolworths had too much price power.
Earlier RACQ spokesperson Renee Smith said there was a “discrimination against regional motorists”, and called on the ACCC and Federal Government to act.
“The government may have given the ACCC more powers to monitor prices, but when will they give the ACCC the power to do something about price gouging?” Ms Smith said.
The ACCC monitors prices in all capital cities and about 180 regional locations. Access the report at www.accc.gov.au.
Small Business Minister Bruce Billson We share the concerns
NO ANSWERS: Disparity in fuel pricing has led to questions.